Back to collection

Diamond Sūtra Discussion

Pervading the Dharma Realm 法界通分分

Click on any word to see more details.

Pervading the Dharma Realm 法界


須菩提云何有人滿三千大千世界七寶布施以是因緣?」 「如是世尊以是因緣甚多。」 「須菩提福德如來福德福德無故如來福德

“Subhūti, what do you think? If someone filled three thousand great thousand-worlds with the Seven Precious Jewels [saptaratnaparipūrṇa], and gave them away in the practice of giving [dāna], would this person obtain many merits [puṇya] from such causes and conditions [nidāna]?” “Thusly, Bhagavān, from such causes and conditions [nidāna], the merits [puṇya] of this person would be extremely many.” “Subhūti, if such merits [puṇya] truly existed, then the Tathāgata would not say that many merits [puṇya] that are obtained. It is from the merits [puṇya] that are unconditioned [askandha], that the Tathāgata speaks of obtaining many merits [puṇya].

Sanskrit: tatkiṃ manyase subhūte yaḥ kaścitkulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā imaṃ trisāhasramahāsāhasraṃ lokadhātuṃ saptaratnaparipūrṇaṃ kṛtvā tathāgatebhyo'rhadbhayaḥ samyaksaṃbuddhebhyo dānaṃ dadyāt, api nu sa kulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā tatonidānaṃ bahu puṇyaskandhaṃ prasunuyāt ? subhūtirāha- bahu bhagavan, bahu sugata| bhagavānāha-evametatsubhūte, evametat| bahu sa kulaputro vā kuladuhitā vā tatonidānaṃ puṇyaskandhaṃ prasunuyādaprameyamasaṃkhyeyam| tatkasya hetoḥ ? puṇyaskandhaḥ puṇyaskandha iti subhūte askandhaḥ sa tathāgatena bhāṣitaḥ| tenocyate puṇyaskandha iti| sacet punaḥ subhūte puṇyaskandho'bhaviṣyat, na tathāgato'bhāṣiṣyat puṇyaskandhaḥ puṇyaskandha iti||19||

Vasubandhu Commentary on Merit (T25, No. 1511, Scroll 3 p0792c04-0792c16)

 佛智慧根  顛倒功德
 以是福德  譬喻

Why is the merit simile used again? The gatha says,

The Buddha's wisdom is fundamental.
There is no deluded merit.
This is a characteristic of merit.
So the the simile is used again.

What is this saying? There are more doubts. The mind dwells in delusion. If the rewards are a delusion then something that is a delusion can be called a virtuous dharma. To remove this doubt the dwelling mind is pointed out so that delusional rewards are not thought of as a delusion. So the gatha says, because "the Buddha's wisdom is fundamental." How is this fundamental? The sutra says, "Subhuti, if rewards are real then the Buddha would not say that rewards can be accumulated." What does that mean? It can be seen that rewards with outflows are a delusion. So, accumulating rewards has outflows. If somebody does not accumulate rewards the Tathagata would not say it is because wisdom is fundamental. So, rewards can be accumulated by someone that accumulates rewards.
[Original translation]


Here the Buddha explains that the merits generated from unconditional giving are also unconditioned (Chinese 無故, Sanskrit askandha). Therefore, he describes them as immeasurable. The Seven Precious Jewels were mentioned in Section 8, where the Buddha said that the merit from accepts and maintains even as little as a four-line gāthā from within this sūtra is greater than giving the Seven Precious Jewels. Here the point made is that the merit is great but inherently empty. True merit is gained from giving without attachment.

The English phrase causes and conditions translates the Chinese 因緣, Sanskrit nidāna.

Merit (功德) was mentioned in chapters 14, 15, and 16 and is mentioned again in chapters 19, and 28. The concept of merit was discussed in the commentary on Chapter 15. Here the Chinese words 福德 and are used instead of 功德, as used in Chapter 15. The English translation by Yifa, Owens, and Romaskiewicz (2006) uses the word rewards to translate 福德 and and merit to translate 功德. However, the Sanskrit text has puṇya in all cases. Rewards (福德) are discussed in chapters 4, 6, 8, 11, 19, 24, and 28.


It seems like merit is brought up again now because of a connection with the deluded mind and impermanence at the end of Chapter 18. This raises the following discussion points:

  • How does merit relate to a deluded mind, impermanence, and the statement at the end of Chapter 18?

  • Can you accumulate merit?

  • What are some misunderstood ideas of merit (social status, etc)?

  • What are some examples of very influentual movements that started with few people and little budget? E.g. Wikipedia. Compare that to some other movements or foundations that had huge budgets, e.g. The Gates Foundation.

Dictionary loading status: not loaded

Glossary and Other Vocabulary